Red Sox Nation, season not lost … yet
The Boston Red Sox are 43-52 and in the basement of the AL East. They have scored fewer runs than the Houston Astros. They won the World Series a year ago. The season has not gone according to plan.
Yes, they weren’t expected to repeat as champions, but most assumed they had a better shot at a World Series than the Houston Astros, whom they are trying not to be worse than.
Despite all that has gone wrong for the Boston Red Sox this season, and there is a bushel full of problems, the season is not lost … yet. Let’s see how it can be salvaged.
The primary reason for hope with this team is the focus on the long term. Turning back the clock to 2012, the Nick Punto (and Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett) trade hit the reset button and focused on replenishing the farm system. We are starting to see the payoff. The Red Sox have started more rookies since the beginning of the season than at any point in their history.
In a perfect world, the Red Sox would clone Brock Holt eight times and field that team. He has stabilized the leadoff spot, been their most consistent and only .300 hitter since early May, and he has provided one of the few bright spots for this team from seven positions, four of which he had never played before. He is the MVP of the Red Sox thus far.
More Brock Holt, please.
Jackie Bradley Jr. is a future (maybe current) perennial Gold Glove center fielder, no questions asked. The only question coming into this campaign was his bat. For 90 percent of the first half, the concerns were valid. In the past month, however, he has hit .294 thanks to a new stance, and, for the year, he’s hitting .297 with runners in scoring position. His potential is beginning to meet fruition.
Hopefully, Jake Peavy has pitched his last game in a Red Sox uniform so room can be made for Rubby De La Rosa and Brandon Workman. As much fun as I’m sure they’re having playing musical chairs between Boston and Pawtucket, the one thing they lack in the majors is experience. They appear to have the stuff, they just need to show it. The second half would be perfect.
Don’t look now Red Sox Nation (actually, please do, the Sox will need the ratings), but your catcher of the future might be here. Christian Vazquez, the apparent heir to Ivan Rodriguez, will use the second half to get accustomed to the pitching staff that should all be here a year from now (more on that in a second). And as a bonus, he will get to learn from the Zen master of active catchers, David Ross. You couldn’t ask for a better scenario for his development.
Xander Bogaerts is … worrisome. Though, to be fair, it’s not all his fault. He should still be at shortstop, but for some illogical reason, the Red Sox signed Stephen Drew and messed with his head. I’ll ignore the rabbit hole. The ups and downs of his rookie year were expected. What’s concerning is his average with runners in scoring position. It’s .128, second to last among hitters with more than 50 at-bats. Bogaerts’ approach at the plate was one of his calling cards late last season, and that average does little to reinforce that. Still, he is 21 with the right kind of players around him. Now is the time to iron out the kinks, learn to hit off-speed pitches and, hopefully, it will be fun to see the light come on.
Now we come to the most critical piece of the 2014 Red Sox season. Jon Lester. Let’s get right to it: Re-sign him by any means necessary. He has earned it in the AL East, in the playoffs, in Boston for goodness sakes. He has been an absolute workhorse. Pay the man. And then there are the intangibles. He’s a true gutsy performer who has overcome cancer to succeed in the major leagues. Will there be another pitcher on the market next year with the leadership capabilities to mentor a promising young staff to thrive for the Boston Red Sox? The answer is no.
The Red Sox front office has botched this move. After a lowball offer of four years, $70 million in spring training, they have a chance to keep Lester only because of his desire to finish his career here. This should have been handled months ago, but management has strung along the near 2013 World Series MVP to the point where they are going to have to pay much more than they intended. Again, I have no logical reason to offer you.
Hope is not lost. This season always was part of a bigger plan and it still can serve value. Young core players are getting key experience, they have the pieces to pull off a trade for a power outfield bat in the offseason, which they clearly need (what up, Giancarlo?), their pitching is among the best in the league and still can be in 2015, and Brock Holt. All eyes outside of the clubhouse seem to be set on the bright horizon of 2015, but there are plenty of reasons to be excited for this year’s team. Unfortunately, the playoffs might not be one of them.